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More parking critical to GO

Significant portion of ridership wants a car at the end of their train trip, board told

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

For GO Transit, the car is a competitor — and an ally.

To that end, the regional commuter transit system plans to add another 2,000 parking spaces this year to the 35,000 spaces now available for commuters.

Parking is “critical” to the future expansion plans of GO Transit, managing director Gary McNeil said last week. “A significant portion of our ridership wants a car at the end of their trip.”

How best to provide scarce parking — a major beef for commuters — is up for debate among the politicians who sit on the GO board.

At the most recent GO Transit meeting, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, who now sits on the GO board instead of Peel region chairman Emil Kolb, called for multitier parking as a way to add space without eating up more land.

“We want to look at solutions other than extending or expanding [ground-level] parking lots,” she said, reflecting a concern in her city that land is in short supply.

But York Region chairman Bill Fisch said “parking is the lifeblood of being able to use the system.” He opposed any restrictions that could add to the cost or convenience of using GO. For example, multitier parking lots are about five times as expensive as ground-level lots now in operation.

Because GO offers free parking as an incentive for drivers to get out of their cars, it is not clear who would pick up the tab for more expensive parking lots.

GO officials are supposed to report back to the board on parking options for the future.

Over the past decade, GO has steadily increased its roster of parking spaces, from 26,000 in 1991 to 35,000 as of December. But the spots fill up about as fast as GO opens them.

For example, when GO opened Rutherford station earlier this month, the 200 parking spots filled up quickly. A new 500-spot lot at Unionville that opened in December now is half full.

GO’s station at Maple is built for 135 cars, but 300 squeeze in there daily, said GO spokeswoman Karen Majerly.

Toronto councillor David Miller, the city’s new representative on the GO board, also serves as a commissioner on the Toronto Transit Commission.

He says parking is a top issue for the TTC as well.

“Having easy, convenient low-cost or free access is essential to getting ‘choice’ riders to take transit instead of cars,” he said in an interview. So-called choice commuters are those who have access to a car but choose from time to time to take public transit.

In addition to parking improvements, he said GO and TTC have to make it easier for commuters to connect on both systems.